A disagreement over levies between commercial motorcyclists (popularly known as Okada) and members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers on Monday snowballed into a violence that led to irate youth attempting to force their way into the Lagos State University, Ojo.
A viral video on social media showed angry youth vandalising properties, including vehicles, just outside the university campus as security agencies looked on helplessly.
“When the trouble started, I left my bus and ran away,” said Abdulrasheed Atanda, a driver at a nearby motor park whose bus was vandalsied.
“I came back around 12 p.m. and saw that my vehicle has been hit but they were still fighting then,” adding that seven of their buses at the park were vandalised.
“The police came around 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. but I have accepted the incident as my destiny.”
Commuters plying the Iyana-Iba axis of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway scampered to safety Monday when the commercial motorcyclists clashed with NURTW, with many of them resorting to trekking long distances and shop owners abruptly shutting down their businesses.
According to Ibrahim Musa, a commercial motorcyclist, about five of his colleagues were stopped by NURTW members and their keys seized because they had not paid the N400 ticketing levy.
They were then told that their penalty for not paying the fee attracts a fine of N2,200, a development that angered the motorcyclists.
Another motorcyclist, who did not say his name, lamented the excesses of the NURTW members, saying the union had seized their motorcycles on several occasions without returning them.
“I am a Nigerian but I’m being treated unfairly in the country.”
Wasiu Adeyemi, of the Road Transport Workers Employers Association in Volks, who lost his phone while fleeing from the violence also said the violence was due to the motorcyclists’ refusal to buy the local government and union tickets.
“So, they (motorcyclists) came out en masse like 200 to 300 and started throwing stones. They are not Hausas; they are from Chad and Niger.”
Efforts to reach the chairman of the NURTW in the area were unsuccessful. The union members seen by our reporter said he was not around, and they did not witness the incident and cannot say anything about it.
Hausa community speaks
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the area on Tuesday, trading activities had resumed at the Iyana-Iba axis of the expressway following the deployment of additional police officers.
Wood sellers, wholesale, and retail food trades were carried out in the Iyana-Iba market and commercial buses were going on with their normal activities without disruption.
Bala Musa, Vice-Chairman of Alaba-Rago market, said the Monday incident happened between Iyana-Iba and Volks axis of the Lagos Badagry Expressway.
“We spoke to the DCO and DPO. They said we need to arrange ourselves to monitor and stop the crisis. So, we went out, we started begging them, both sides. Some held sticks, some had bloodstains, but I did not see any deaths,” said Mr Musa.
“We had DSS, police, LASU Vice-Chancellor, to monitor the area, to stop the crisis so that it doesn’t escalate. We begged some people from LASU gate to Franklass.”
Sanni Khalil, Chairman of Hausa Truck Pushers in Pako market, said he was sleeping when a member of the group rushed in and woke him up to see what was happening.
“I saw some Okada riders setting fire in the middle of the road. I learnt the Agberos (thugs) were pursuing the bike riders. The Agberos carried cutlasses and started beating one Hausa man. They cut him in the hand,” he said.
He said the Yoruba traders in the market gathered some Hausa indigenes and hid them somewhere in the market to save their lives because the Agberos were attacking anyone who spoke Hausa.
He said he personally took the injured man, Kamala, to the hospital and could not get food when he said he was hungry because of the violence.
“Kamala was taken to the hospital for treatment and later to Arewa (Katsina State). Even the injured boy said he was hungry I could not get food for him. We took him in the night bus because don’t know when this will be over,” he said.
An official at the Seriki place in Alaba-Rago, who did not want to be named, said he “saw two casualties, one was hit in the leg while the other in the waist by a local gun. They have been taken to the north.”
Meanwhile, the Lagos State University in a ‘confidential’ statement titled “Attempted invasion of LASU campus by Hausa speaking Okada riders” shown to PREMIUM TIMES by a top security officer at the institution’s Security Department on Tuesday said the fracas was between Okada riders and road union workers.
“The crisis which started very early in the day was according to sources caused by an increase in the ticketing fee by the leadership of the union. There were attacks among the members before the crisis escalated to other innocent people by the Hausa-speaking Okada Riders which led to attacks on passers-by and vehicles were affected.”
According to the statement, “a passer-by was stabbed and rushed to the campus health centre for medical treatment while ten vehicles parked in front of the school were damaged”.
“One of those attacked was rushed to LASU Health centre for first aid treatment while some attacked were immediately evacuated by some Okada boys to an unknown place apparently to cover up evidence.”
The statement noted that the lack of standard fence perimeter in the institution was an opportunity for the attackers, but they were repelled by “friendly forces intervention”. The friendly forces, it stated, are the police, OP MESA, Rapid Response Squad, and the SSS.
The institution said a team including the DVC Academic, Elias Wahab; Dean of Faculty of Science, Dean of Student Affairs, Mr Olumolo; and two others met with the Seriki Hausa of Ojo and leader of Hausa Traders Association.
LASU said it was not the first time the motorcyclists would attempt to invade the school premises because of ongoing construction at the Badagry school gate while recommending that the construction company, CCECC “should be called to speed up action and prevent exposing the University community to avoidable danger.”
It urged that to prevent future reoccurrence, a police RRS station should be set up at the institution’s gate “with two APC carriers for future timely intervention” and Alaba Rago market should be relocated from the school environment.”
The university advised that the Okada riders should be educated “viz Seriki and the leadership of their Traders Association and their clerics” to forestall “future attacks on innocent students who have contributed nothing to their dispute.”
A 200 level Philosophy major from LASU, Adekoye Opeye, said they finished lectures around 1 p.m. on Monday but could not go home due to the fight. She said the university’s security officers prevented them from exiting the school premises.
She added that she left the campus around 3 p.m. and while going back to her hostel she saw “broken bottles on the roads, burnt tyres and a damaged vehicle in front of the school.”
Another student, Lawal Quadri, from the Faculty of Art said the RRS officers fired teargas to disperse the attackers.
“There was teargas and it affected us from the gate to the classroom around 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Everything was calm before 4 p.m.”
Drivers, traders lament
Meanwhile, a driver at a motor park in the area, who simply identified himself as Yinusa, explained that the incident happened between 8:30 a.m to 9 a.m.
“The union stopped some Okada riders who refused to buy the tickets. Later many of them (Okada riders) came and started throwing stones. So, the union chairman came out and ordered his men to pursue them. Many of us ran away, ” he said.
The driver also showed this reporter the affected vehicles at the motor park. At least five vehicles had their windshields or rear glasses smashed.
Asaka Ramon, a plank seller at Pako market bus stop, said when the incident happened she fled and left her wares uncovered.
“I couldn’t close my shop, I left it and ran away, I came back around 2 p.m. to cover my wares before going home.”
“Yesterday, three of them (wheelbarrow pushers) were shot, Musa, Sefiu and one other one, they have been carried to their village in the north.”
She said the fight ended around 6 p.m. due to the intervention of the security operatives.
On Tuesday, PREMIUM TIMES also observed the presence of security officers including police officers, the RRS, and soldiers at Volks and the Lagos State University where the clash erupted.
Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the Lagos police spokesperson, in a statement on Monday, said the state police chief, Hakeem Odumosu, had deployed additional police officers to restore peace at the Iyana-Iba/Alabarago axis.
“The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu has ordered immediate additional police personnel to the area to maintain law and order as he also directed the Area Commander, Area E Festac, to monitor the situation and invite the leaders of the affected Okada riders unit for an urgent meeting,” he said.
Mr Adejobi, who described the “disagreement” as a “mere conflict,” said it ensued because of the increment in tariff and ticketing while he debunked claims making rounds on the social media that the clash was between two ethnic groups.
However, Mr Adejobi in a radio programme on Nigeria Info, on Tuesday morning said, “it was quite unfortunate that our people wanted to turn it to ethnic clash, the rumour was everywhere that it is the Yoruba versus the Hause.”
He said Mr Odumosu has directed the police area commander to look for the leaders of the warring groups “so as to profer a solution”.
He said the area commander will release a statement to “give accurate accounts of what actually happened” and reports of the damages done in the area.
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